Twelve unregistered, home improvement contractors are facing a variety of charges following an undercover sting operation by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs - at a home along the Passaic River in Lyndhurst that was severely flooded after hurricane Irene. Tom Calcagni, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs says investigators - posing as the homeowners - invited several unlicensed contractors to inspect the damage inside and give repair estimates - and what happened was startling.

"Several of these people showed up" he says, "without rulers, without tape measures and other basic equipment you would expect a contractor to rely upon to determine the size of the damaged area, and the quantities of flooring or drywall and other materials needed to make repairs."

He adds "some people completely overlooked some of the most obvious and troubling damage in the home such as mold-infested drywall, with black mold-spots that were visible to the naked eye, and others ignored warped and water damaged sub-floor- even sections that had holes in it - that you could see straight through to the basement."

Calcagni points out under state law it is not only a civil violation to operate in the state of New Jersey without being registered, it is also a crime of the 14th degree - punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

"After six years on the books", he says, "the registration law should not be a surprise to any legitimate home improvement contractor in the state of New Jersey…registration is not a panacea for all that ills the home improvement profession- and it won't protect consumers from shoddy workmanship- but it does two important things …it helps ensure that the contractor has a legitimate business address that it's not a fly by night operation, and that it has the requisite amount of liability insurance - at least 500 thousand dollars…these are two pieces of information that can be extremely important to a homeowner, should something go wrong on the job - and somebody needs to be held financially accountable."

He adds "in 2010 over 14 hundred consumer complaints related to unregistered and dishonest home improvement contractors were received here in the Division…consumers can verify that someone claiming to be a home improvement contractor is in fact a registered contractor in the state of New Jersey by calling the Division of Consumer Affairs."

They can also visit their website.

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